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August 2021

The design of the exhibition by SITE

By Exhibition design No Comments

The WilliWear Men’s Showroom, c. 1982.
Photo: Andreas Sterzing

“I don’t design clothes for the queen; but for the people who wave to her when she walks by, ”said fashion designer Willi Smith, who drew many of his best ideas from street life in New York City. His label, WilliWear, was the first streetwear brand, and his clothes, released in the late 1970s, were modern, comfortable, and expressive – think oversized blazers and pants that all body types could wear, chunky knits and fabrics sourced from all over the world. (One of his most popular pieces was a one size fits all cargo pants with adjustable waistband.) Smith often sold models of his designs, so people could make his clothes at home. So, in the early 1980s, when he wanted to open his own showroom, he told James Wines, founder of the architecture and environmental art studio. TO PLACE, to make it “as far away from Ralph Lauren as possible”. Smith took Wines to his favorite haunts on the west side – Christopher St. Pier and nightclubs close – and as they walked around the area, he pointed out all of the materials and textures he loved. Wines thought: Let’s make the street.

Willi Smith (left) designed what he called “democratic” fashion. The streetscape-inspired showroom was a backdrop for the type of clothing he made (right). From left to right : Photo: Courtesy of Kim SteelePhoto: Peter Gould / Courtesy of Fashion Institute of Technology

Willi Smith (left) designed what he called “democratic” fashion. The streetscape-inspired showroom was a backdrop for the type of clothing he …
Willi Smith (left) designed what he called “democratic” fashion. The streetscape-inspired showroom was a backdrop for the type of clothing he made (right). From above: Photo: Courtesy of Kim SteelePhoto: Peter Gould / Courtesy of Fashion Institute of Technology

Under cover of night, Wines drove his Ford Explorer through the same areas Smith took him – which was being redeveloped and highway removal at a breakneck pace – and picked up all the trash he had. could find: rolls of chain link fencing, bricks, metal siding, shipping pallets and even stack cleats. The entirety of Smith’s office – which featured a huge desk that looked like two unfinished brick walls topped with glass – came from a single construction site. Every once in a while, they hit the jackpot: an overturned fire hydrant or a broken lamppost. “We were very careful not to affect public safety, but it was really like a game,” says Wines, whose job it is to abandon architectural conventions. “I like this idea of ​​the unwanted world, because you can do something with it.”

Set foot inside Smith Women’s Showroom, which opened on West 38th Street in 1982, was like stepping into an industrial downtown street, painted entirely in dark gray. The “Ghost cityscape”Was as much an artistic experience as a place to shop for clothes, as Smith intended, and paved the way for concept shops like Dover Street Market and Opening Ceremony. The stores belonged to the same universe for which the clothes were designed. He hung clothes directly on the chain link fences and posed mannequins sitting on concrete blocks, just like a person would on the street. When Smith held fashion shows in showrooms, models climbed fences, hung on pipes, and sat on fire hydrants. “It was an absolute genius to have designed, for the first major boutique of African-American fashion designers, an environmental framework that not only spoke to the designer’s creative vision for clothing, but also defined the man, the woman. politics and the social conditions of the time ”, the architect Jack Travis, writing. “The results were undeniable.

The WilliWear women’s showroom opened in 1982.
Photo: James Wines

So when Cooper Hewitt mounted a retrospective of Smith’s daring career in “Willi Smith: street sewing”, Which is open until October 24, there was no question of who would design the exhibition. It had to be SITE. Alexandra Cunningham Cameron, curator of the exhibition, said: “The SITE and WilliWear collaboration so perfectly represents two complementary value systems that collide to challenge the status quo, both transforming basic materials – a shovel, a skirt , a brick, a blazer – in an act of rebellion, a moment of becoming built by style and intelligence.

SITE traveled to the western part of Manhattan to find materials and inspiration for Smith’s showrooms. Here are some of the photos Wines took on his scouting trips in the 1980s. Photos: Courtesy of James Wines.

SITE traveled to the western part of Manhattan to find materials and inspiration for Smith’s showrooms. Here are some of the photos Wines took during her sc …
SITE traveled to the western part of Manhattan to find materials and inspiration for Smith’s showrooms. Here are some of the photos Wines took on his scouting trips in the 1980s. Photos: Courtesy of James Wines.

An exhibit on Willi Smith had to include his showroom in one way or another. But representing architecture in a gallery setting is always a challenge, as the experience of architecture requires a body in space. The photos, videos or models of a Smith showroom can go no further. So Wines, now 89, worked with Chermayeff Studio, production studio Supermatic, and his daughter Suzan’s wines, to recreate the most iconic elements of Smith’s showrooms and office – the collage of street artifacts, the masonry desk – in the gallery.

But for Wines, there was also an inherent tension in replicating this concept in the museum. “The whole environmental art movement in Soho in the ’70s and’ 80s, which I was a part of, was based on leaving galleries,” says Wines. “Our whole philosophy moved away from all these projectors, brackets, plinths and frames. We are all either in the landscape or in the street. (Some of SITE’s most famous works have been to transform big box retail stores into works of art which made the buildings appear to be collapsing or peeling off.) Plus, Cooper Hewitt is a Georgian mansion that once belonged to Andrew Carnegie. An iconic Upper East Side building is about as far removed as possible from Wines’ philosophy, which rejects architectural formalism, and the aesthetic of downtown Smith. Smith’s showrooms and office were set in large, raw industrial spaces with cement floors, exposed beams, and large windows. The gallery, meanwhile, has parquet floors, ornate carved moldings, coffered ceilings, and stained glass windows. “The idea of ​​exhibition space is a formalization of space,” says Wines. “It became this big problem of … How am I going to keep this in mind? How am I going to honor the artist?

Wines’ conceptual sketches for Cooper Hewitt’s exhibition on Willi Smith represented streetscapes in a state of dematerialization.
Illustration: Courtesy of James Wines

Photo: Matt Flynn / Smithsonian Institution

Part of the appeal of the original exhibit hall was that the artifacts all existed in the city before they were assembled into a recreation of a downtown street. “In the 80s a lot of the energy was related to the harshness and the reality of the whole thing,” says Wines. “We tore up entire facades of buildings and were lucky enough to find all of these jagged buildings, so we had pretty much everything we needed to slip into the showroom and do this freewheeling collage. And Willi loved it, of course, and it was handy because you can hang clothes anywhere.

But SITE couldn’t attach anything to the museum’s wooden walls, or put artifacts directly on the floor, so they designed stand-alone exhibition platforms. In addition, the objects in the exhibition are now all precious. Ephemera like magazine articles, invitations to fashion shows and posters had to be placed in display cases to protect them. Wines was particularly shocked to learn that curators couldn’t always hang clothes directly on the exhibit structure, as Smith would have done in his shop. “How could touching pipes hurt a t-shirt?” »Notes on the wines. (Some of the Smith T-shirts once sold for $ 40 now go for $ 1,400.)

Wines designed a smaller version of Smith’s desk for the exhibit.
Photo: Matt Flynn / Smithsonian Institution

SITE built Smith’s office in 1982 with materials salvaged from a Manhattan construction site.
Photo: James Wines

Wines also couldn’t surreptitiously source materials like they once did at midnight, as those abandoned buildings and demolished piles of materials no longer exist in the city. But Cat Garcia-Menocal, the construction manager at Supermatic, competed over materials from construction suppliers to get closer to what was in the original showroom. It was brand new, of course, not rough from years of wear and tear on the exterior. When it came time to recreate Smith’s site office, the designers scaled it down and used it to display some of his personal items, like his round plastic glasses.

Until the end, Wines wondered how the scenography of the exhibition would unfold. But when he was finally able to visit the exhibit in person (the museum reopened this summer after having to close for COVID just a week after the exhibit began), he was delighted to find that all Georgian adornments were ‘were faded into the background, as he’d hoped, and he felt as close to Smith’s world as he could be in 2021. I felt that, too. Walking from the wood-lined hallway of the museum and rounding the corner of the exhibit was exhilarating. He did not have the exact sense of reality that Wines described as having the original showrooms, but that’s understandable, and there was a feeling of awe. “It still looked like Willi Smith, there was still that sense of bonding,” Wines says. “We managed to do it, so it at least preserves the memory of the showroom.”

Photo: Matt Flynn / Smithsonian Institution

Photo: Matt Flynn / Smithsonian Institution

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21st Century Museum Management Conference for Omani Specialists

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Entitled “The History of the Representation of Cultures in Museums and Cultural Centers”, the virtual webinar was moderated by Dr Paul Michael Taylor, Research Anthropologist at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, Director of Asian Cultural History , European and Middle Eastern museum. Cultures and Director of the Asian Cultural History Program and Curator of Asian, European and Middle Eastern Ethnology.

Muscat: The National Museum, represented by the Learning Center and in collaboration with the United States Smithsonian Institution and the United States Embassy in Muscat, hosted the second in a series on Museum Management in the 21st Century for Omani specialists and students in the field of museums. .

The series is another sign of the strong partnership between Oman and the United States. Entitled “The History of the Representation of Cultures in Museums and Cultural Centers”, the virtual webinar was moderated by Dr Paul Michael Taylor, Research Anthropologist at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, Director of Asian Cultural History , European and Middle Eastern museum. Cultures and Director of the Asian Cultural History Program and Curator of Asian, European and Middle Eastern Ethnology. It targeted employees of the National Museum, employees of public and private museums, employees of private art galleries, employees of cultural agencies and administrative divisions under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, in plus tourism students from Sultan Qaboos University and Oman University Tourism.

Dr Taylor will also be presenting three other lectures this year on a range of topics: “Virtual Exhibitions and Other Museum Uses of the Web”, “Program Development: Dynamic Program Development and Visitor Engagement” and “Museum or Museum Activities”. cultural centers “Modern: prosperity in the 21st century. In addition to a sixth talk on “Exhibition Development: A Case Study of Money as Material Culture: Acquisitions and Organization in the American Museum of Money”, by Douglas Mudd of the Colorado Museum of Money in the United States.

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Augusta’s First Amendment Museum secures exhibition design grants

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A render shows what the First Amendment Museum should look like once its renovation is complete. Image courtesy of the First Amendment Museum

AUGUSTA – The First Amendment Museum, located in Guy P. Gannett’s former home in Augusta, has won a grant of nearly $ 250,000 to complete the design of what officials say is its cutting-edge exhibit intended to inspire visitors to understand, practice and preserve their First Amendment rights of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.

The federal $ 249,000 Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services will be used to complete the design of the museum’s exhibit, which is slated to be installed as part of a $ 14 million overall restoration and expansion of the building.

The planned interactive exhibit, officials said, will allow visitors to meet, interact with and reflect on their rights by reinforcing the notion that citizens use and engage with the freedoms protected by the First Amendment. Each room in the museum will interpret a particular aspect of the First Amendment. A dystopian kitchen will show what life could be like in a society without the First Amendment, a “Censorship Library” will highlight books, movies and music that have been banned, a teenage bedroom will explore the discourse of youth and social media, and an exercise The Room will “engage kinesthetic learners,” according to a press release.

“This major grant will help us create a unique, interactive and relevant visitor experience” Co-founder of Genie Gannett and Chairman of the Board, and a granddaughter of Guy Gannett, said in the statement.

The non-partisan the museum is already open, with temporary exhibitions and guided interactive tours focused on the First Amendment and the five freedoms it protects: religion, speech, press, meeting and petition. Admission is free and the museum, located at 184 State St. next to Blaine House, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and, until September 4, Saturday.

Deborah Williams, director of outreach engagement for the First Amendment Museum, said on Monday that the exhibit will be worked on alongside the physical restoration and expansion of the 1911 building, which will likely begin next year with the aim of open the new exhibit at the end of 2023 or early 2024..

The exhibition will be created by the designer Helen Riegle of HER Design in Boston, whose portfolio includes “Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial” from the Boston Public Library, “A Whole New Game” from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and “America on The Move” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

“The museum exhibits will show how Americans have used their First Amendment rights as a tool to move our society forward and to create that ‘more perfect union’ which is our civic burden,” said Christian Cotz, Managing Director of the museum. “But perhaps more importantly, these dynamic, stimulating and interactive exhibits will inspire people to live their freedoms and exercise their rights more intentionally and effectively.”

A fundraising campaign to fund the project is in its early stages, according to Jamie O’Brien, Director of Development. Donations can be made through the museum’s website.

The expansion will double the size of the facility and will be attached to the rear of the building.

Guy Gannett and his family lived in the house for about 10 years before moving to Portland when the publishing company he founded with his father purchased the Portland Press Herald. The Gannett Publishing Co. also owned the Waterville Sentinel, the Portland (Maine) Sunday Telegram, the Portland Evening Express and the Daily Kennebec Journal. They later expanded to broadcast media, but sold the company in 1998.


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Augusta’s First Amendment Museum secures exhibition design grants

By Exhibition design No Comments

A render shows what the First Amendment Museum should look like once its renovation is complete. Image courtesy of the First Amendment Museum

AUGUSTA – The First Amendment Museum, located in Guy P. Gannett’s former home in Augusta, won a grant of nearly $ 250,000 to complete the design of what officials say is his cutting-edge exhibit intended to inspire visitors to understand, practice and preserve their First Amendment rights to religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.

The federal $ 249,000 Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services will be used to complete the design of the museum’s exhibit, which is slated to be installed as part of a $ 14 million overall restoration and expansion of the building.

The planned interactive exhibit, officials said, will allow visitors to meet, interact with and reflect on their rights by reinforcing the notion that citizens use and engage with the freedoms protected by the First Amendment. Each room in the museum will interpret a particular aspect of the First Amendment. A dystopian kitchen will show what life could be like in a society without the First Amendment, a “Censorship Library” will highlight books, movies and music that have been banned, a teenage bedroom will explore the discourse of youth and social media, and an exercise The Room will “engage kinesthetic learners,” according to a press release.

“This major grant will help us create a unique, interactive and relevant visitor experience” Co-founder of Genie Gannett and Chairman of the Board, and a granddaughter of Guy Gannett, said in the statement.

The non-partisan the museum is already open, with temporary exhibitions and guided interactive tours focused on the First Amendment and the five freedoms it protects: religion, speech, press, meeting and petition. Admission is free and the museum, located at 184 State St. next to Blaine House, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and, until September 4, Saturday.

Deborah Williams, director of outreach engagement for the First Amendment Museum, said on Monday that the exhibit will be worked on alongside the physical restoration and expansion of the 1911 building, which will likely begin next year with the aim of open the new exhibit at the end of 2023 or early 2024..

The exhibition will be created by the designer Helen Riegle of HER Design in Boston, whose portfolio includes “Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial” from the Boston Public Library, “A Whole New Game” from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and “America on The Move” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

“The museum exhibits will show how Americans have used their First Amendment rights as a tool to move our society forward and to create that ‘more perfect union’ which is our civic burden,” said Christian Cotz, Managing Director of the museum. “But perhaps more importantly, these dynamic, stimulating and interactive exhibits will inspire people to live their freedoms and exercise their rights more intentionally and effectively.”

A fundraising campaign to fund the project is in its early stages, according to Jamie O’Brien, Director of Development. Donations can be made through the museum’s website.

The expansion will double the size of the facility and will be attached to the rear of the building.

Guy Gannett and his family lived in the house for about 10 years before moving to Portland when the publishing company he founded with his father purchased the Portland Press Herald. The Gannett Publishing Co. also owned the Waterville Sentinel, the Portland (Maine) Sunday Telegram, the Portland Evening Express and the Daily Kennebec Journal. They later expanded to broadcast media, but sold the company in 1998.


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